The role of an executor is to quarterback the assets of the deceased and it’s no small job, says Toronto lawyer, Lisa Laredo.

But there is a prescribed process to follow to fulfil that obligation and ensuring the executor is prepared for the task ahead is as important as making the decision on who to appoint to that role, says Laredo, principal of Laredo Law.

“Make sure the testator tells you that you have been chosen to act for the estate. Being an executor is almost like having a new full-time job. There are banks to attend to; lawyers and accountants that need to be met with and a lot of running around to do,” she says.

Laredo warns against appointing two executors to act jointly. If they don’t get along, this could hinder the process and may bring the estate administration to a halt. The best approach is to choose one executor but also name an alternate, in case the original executor is not available or renounces their position.

A good approach is to appoint someone to the role who isn’t the same age. Laredo points out as the testator ages, so will the executor and it may not be possible for the executor to act if they no longer have the capacity.

Geography, she adds, also plays a role.

“Be mindful of where the executor lives and where you live. If you live in Toronto, and your executor lives out of country administering the estate will be a hardship for the executor who may need to travel to sign documents etc. and they may not be able to legally act for the estate,” says Laredo.

In addition to the will, Laredo suggests clear instructions be available to the executor which would include a list of assets and passwords, and that it is kept in a safe place, allowing access to the executor when the time comes.

The executor should also be aware of the professionals who are involved, such as the lawyer and accountant. They can help make the process of administering the estate a lot smoother because of the ongoing relationship they had with the testator.

Laredo offers these guidelines for the executor could expect to do:

  • Take possession of estate assets;
  • Arrange for funeral and disposition of the body of the deceased;
  • Seek legal and other professional assistance in administering the estate;
  • Apply to court for certificate of appointment as estate trustee;
  • Pay estate debts, funeral expenses, legal fees, taxes, etc.;
  • Perform the tasks entrusted to the trustee by the will of the deceased, if there is a will, which may include:
    • Sale of estate assets;
    • Holding assets in trust on behalf of specific beneficiaries;
    • Investing estate funds;
    • Managing estate businesses and other assets;
    • Collect monies or other assets owing to the estate;
    • Division of estate assets in specie amongst beneficiaries
  • If there is no will, turn estate assets into cash and distribute money according to the law of intestate succession.

Lastly, Laredo says it’s not necessary for the executor to do all the work themselves.

“Ask for help from the professionals who knew the deceased. Administering an estate is time-consuming and overwhelming especially when you may be grieving the loss of loved ones so being able to ask for guidance will take the pressure off you and ‎make the process easier,” she says.